From social media to social justice, Bretman Rock is making his platform matter, using his voice for awareness and advocacies that everyone should not only be talking about, but fighting for.
A singer-songwriter, actor, actress, athlete, activist, a scientist on the motherf*cking side, the star of the crystal of the day, and coconut water connoisseur, this young man needs no introduction. Heck, he even has his name listed down in the internet’s guide to language and linguistics, Urban Dictionary. But out of everything that he was, is, and will be, as defined by both himself and everyone else on social media, Bretman Rock will be the first to tell you that he is not only proudly gay, but Filipino as well.
Not that anyone needs any warning on who they are, who they want to love, or how they choose to express themselves, but just to make it perfectly clear to the stray homophobes, toxic misogynists, and the downright unkind, Bretman Rock has no time for that hate. “To me pride is all about owning everything that makes you you—from your gender, from your culture, from the mistakes you made, every decisions you’ve made, from the fungus on your fucking toes to the split ends on your motherf*ckin’ hair, b*tch,” he rambles passionately on one of his Instagram Stories at the start of June, which to you and me means pride month. “It’s all about owning and embodying everything that motherfu*ckin’ makes you, you. Duh.”
While he is the first one to admit that he wasn’t always vocal online, Bretman Rock has since realized and recognized the power that he has, working actively to learn and unlearn everything in the scope of the human experience–inequalities, injustices, inhumanity, and all. So, if you’re in any way uncomfortable with the conversations he is putting to light on his platforms, then that was his very intention. Now, the great work begins.
Related: THIS ISN’T THE TIME TO PLAY CUTE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A PLATFORM TO SPEAK UP
The Voice Of Bretman Rock
“For me, I really believe that if you really want to see a change in the world, you have to do something about it. And for me, there’s so many things that I’m very passionate about, whether it comes to me speaking about turtles and why we shouldn’t use plastic straws to me talking about sexual gender expression and the difference between what you’re attracted to and how you express yourself,” begins Bretman Rock. “Even to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Asian hate, I will always speak up for everything that I am passionate about. If I want to see that changed in the world, I’m going to speak up about it.”
This might sound like a lofty ideal, especially in a day and age inundated with the deeply rooted biases and prejudices that have long ruled the systems of society in place. However, for Bretman Rock, he may be one voice in the discussion, but he wants to make it count. “When I first started, I wasn’t speaking up about it. And, you know, you have to realize that if you’re not speaking about things, and you are the problem, if you’re not addressing the problem, maybe you are the problem,” he says. “So, yeah, the reason why I speak up on a lot of things, and I’m not scared to is because I don’t care and I want the world to be a better place. And, you know, if you hate me for speaking up, then I guess I did my job right.”
But Bretman Rock isn’t just a voice. With his impact and influence on the generation, as well as of those before him, there is a profound impact when he starts to shift from charm and candor to compelling arguments that is aggregated across many advocacies. And when he speaks, people listen.
“There is a lot of power when it comes to numbers. You have to realize that a certain extent that your followers are not just like your followers, they are really there to listen to you as well and listen to your opinions on stuff like that,” he reasons. “Obviously, if I’m not using my power, and I’m not using my voice, then no one will. If my audience doesn’t see myself using my voice, then no one will. If queer Filipino boys didn’t see myself speaking up and standing up for myself, then they’re gonna not want to speak up and stand up for themselves, too. So, it’s really just a chain of reaction that I’m trying to cause.”
Be Kind, Please
Not one to shy from practically anything, Bretman Rock has gained a proper notoriety when it comes to amplifying voices and championing causes that are near and dear to him, as well as of bringing to light certain discriminations, inequities, and bad behavior that proliferate the world online and off. From calling out influencers who are noticeably silent on the Black Lives Matter movement, the Stop Asian Hate movement, or even just contemporaries who are comfortable within the narrow-minded limits of the status quo, he has had a lot to say, and rightfully so. But out of everything he wants to help with, its with the queer community that he really gets passionate about.
“Just by being unapologetically me is a statement in itself. It’s a parade in itself. Just me being gay every day is already a political statement, let’s just say that,” asserts Bretman Rock, reminding us that pride, while it can be fun, fierce, and fabulous, is rooted in protest—one that continues to painfully persist as of this writing. “And so moving forward, the best that I can do is just continue what I have been doing: standing up for everything I believe in and really speaking up for my gay brothers and sisters, especially my trans brothers and sisters, which is what the world really can’t grasp on right now.”
At this point, the happy and full of humor Bretman Rock relents to a sidestep as his emotions begin to take over our conversation. ”There’s no more disrespected people in this world than trans people, to be honest with you,” he says, his voice breaking and tears welling up. “The world that we live in, they just don’t see trans people as people, and it’s so crazy to me. As progressive as the gay community is right now, I think what we need to focus on is our trans brothers and sisters, because, and I’m really getting emotional right now, I have so many family members and friends who are trans. And I know that as a gay man, I’ll never understand what they go through, but I think what I’m just trying to teach the world is to just have a little bit of compassion with one another. You have to learn to respect them and live with them. And that’s really just all I’m trying to do with my voice. And my [intention with my impact] is to spread compassion and humility.”
If you still don’t get it, let Bretman Rock spell it out for you: “If you can’t be kind, it’s kind to just shut the fuck up. Trust me, it’s better to just shut the fuck up sometimes.” Period.
That’s That, Period
With such a responsibility resting on his now muscular shoulders, the pressure to be a paragon for the LGBTQIA+ community and youth must be immense. “I don’t like the pressure of having to be good just for the sake of having and representing a good persona,” he says. For Bretman Rock, it isn’t a one-time deal to be ditched once the attention during pride month wanes, but instead, it is a lifelong responsibility he willingly accepts and upholds the best way he can. “The best that I can do to really represent my community and all of my communities, even just being moreno, gay…Filipino, Asian, queer, an immigrant, is to not be thinking about it too much and not letting the pressure get to me. I’m just being myself, that’s really the best I could do.”
In this passion and purpose, Bretman Rock is really leading with his heart more than anything. Underscoring the importance of representation, he is standing his ground, striking significant breakthroughs that allow others to occupy spaces that would otherwise not let them in to begin with. Now, he is really fighting for everyone that can’t just yet. “It is very much important because the world, especially the minorities, they really just need someone to look up to in this day and age. They need someone that looks like them, someone that is the same color as them, someone that speaks like them, maybe even smells like them or enjoys the same food as them,” he details.
“People just love to see themselves in other people. Maybe that’s why I relate to so many people around the world is because I wear so many hats. You can relate to me. If you’re a 60-year-old white woman, you could see yourself in me because maybe you were a weirdo when you’re a teenager. There are even little kids that see themselves in me because maybe they have curly hair like me, or maybe they have moreno skin like me, or maybe they just like makeup like me, you know? Everybody needs someone to look like them. Otherwise, you will just feel like you’re alone. And that’s the worst feeling in the world, really.”
You’re A Star, B*tch
“I didn’t want to be so sappy on set, but I wanted to do a speech with everybody to really let them know how important and monumental this is for the LGBTQIA+ community. A lot of them grew up in the US, but I don’t even think they realize how big of a deal this is,” expresses Bretman Rock, recalling his NYLON Manila cover shoot just days before, one with what is surprisingly a first time for him, a full Filipino creative team. “If I had seen this magazine when I was eight years old, it would have made me feel so grateful and it would have made me so happy. The fact that I’m doing it for the eight year old kids now, it is so magical. I’m not just representing the gay filipinos back home, but I’m also representing the gay Filipinos and brown kids in America. I truly wish that every queer Filipino felt what I felt because they deserve everything I felt. Just to have NYLON Manila consider me, I would have been so happy, but for you to pick me, it meant so much. It means the Philippines and the world to me.”
The last thing we both expected in our Zoom call was that tears would be flowing and our words garbled by a brimming of feelings. Come to think of it, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, especially when Bretman Rock is involved, everything is bound to get raw and real. But this was way more than assumed, and it unravelled ever so beautifully, which only bolstered our resolves to continue our collective commitment, further fighting for the rainbow flag no matter what.
“Keep going,” says Bretman Rock, as if now talking to himself in the third person, which he finds great joy in doing from time to time. “You’re not just doing this for yourself anymore, you have to realize that you’re doing this for a whole entire community that you don’t even have an idea that is coming your way, that’s going to look up to you. You’re not just doing this for your 15-year-old self anymore. You’re doing it for other queer 15-year-olds who are alone and don’t feel seen or don’t have people out there to tell them that they’re a star.”
Quite frankly, we are all stars, and this universe is big enough to handle it all, so just like Bretman Rock, that little light of yours, make it shine, because you never know who will need that nod of kindness. And that’s that.
Creative direction and cover story ANGELO RAMIREZ DE CARTAGENA
Photography RAEN BADUA
Fashion and Beauty Direction LYN ALUMNO
Styling NIKKO PANTI and ANGELO RAMIREZ DE CARTAGENA
Assisted by ADRIANNE CHAN
Makeup DAPHNE CHANTELL DEL ROSARIO using DIOR BEAUTY, TOM FORD BEAUTY, DR. DENNIS GROSS
Hair JOJO TORRES using ORIBE HAIR CARE
Shot on location THE GERRY BUILDING, LOS ANGELES
Special thanks to Paul Samaha, Taylor Rodriguez, and Align PR; Tash Greizen of NOW PR LA, Michael Cruz of The Gerry Building, Sofhia Sevandra and Shania Sevandra
CONTINUE READING: WHERE IS BRETMAN ROCK HEADED TO NEXT? ON THE COVER OF NYLON MANILA